By Rosa Mas Giralt
The Guardian newspaper is currently publishing a series of reports looking at the increased political presence of anti-immigrant movements all across contemporary Europe. Within this series, yesterday’s article by Angelique Chrisafis entitled “Immigration: France sees tensions rise five years on from Paris riots”, focused on the current state of affairs in Clichy-sous-Bois, the neighbourhood at the edge of the French capital where the 2005 riots started. It made sad reading. Time has not transformed the social issues (e.g. poor housing, marginalization, joblessness, racism) that lay at the root of the revolts which were sparked after the death of two youngsters who were hiding from the police. Discrimination against young non-white French people and immigrants is rife and there have been no signs of convincing policy initiatives to address the situation. Unfortunately, in the current uncertain economic climate, right-wing anti-immigrant rhetoric continues to dominate the French debate on immigration and ethnic minorities. The riots could potentially reignite at any point.
In 2007, Geography Compass published an article by Mustafa Dikeç which focused on the 2005 riots in the banlieues of Paris. In it he argued that a geographical approach to analyzing these revolts can provide a better understanding of their recurrence. The article provides a historical perspective of the revolts, exploring similar incidents that have taken place in the country since the 1980s, and relating the creation of the banlieues to France’s post-war economic and political transformations and colonial past. Dikeç (2007: 1203) suggests that “geographies of revolts overlap with geographies of mass unemployment, discrimination and repression”, geographies which have been expanding in the last 30 years. From this perspective, revolts can be understood as resistance movements and not as ‘imitation’ incidents, based on the logic of ‘copycat effects’, which have dominated behavioural accounts.
Feature image caption: Burnt out car, 6th November 2005. Picture taken during the French suburb riots by François Schnell.